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Singapore's enhanced role in the movement of goods, people, money, and information at a global scale is having its most marked impact in terms of capital flows. This is in turn changing the business focus of the island. As table 12.2 indicated, Singapore's economy is finding its highest growth rates in financial services. Capital flows are perhaps the most globalized and fluid of all aspects of the world economy. The move to internationalize further means that Singapore must move more fully into financial services and out of traditional activities. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) argues that the growth of the financial services sector is clearly linked to the internationalization process in describing the growth of the Singapore stock market from S$12.9 billion to S$26.5 billion between 1988 and 1989 (MAS, 1992).
The heightened role of Singapore as a multisectoral entrepôt, especially in regard to the movement of capital and information, is closely tied to the establishment of Singapore as a "world city."
A key feature of the world city model is that cities act as "basing points for global capital in the spatial organization and articulation of markets" (Friedmann and Wolff, 1986:7). Thus, world cities act as command and control centres for global and regional capital, labour, and consumer markets. Sassen (1992) and others have emphasized that the growth in services (particularly in communications and finance) is critical to developing the "command/control capabilities" typical of world cities.
The Singapore case strongly fits this vision as it is a local centre for the organization of capital market production and consumption. Castells, in discussing the development of Singapore as a world city, argues for the importance of
the emergence of new nodal points in the global economy, which shift from subordinate positions to regional headquarters status by being interconnected to networks of decision making, gradually carving niches on the basis of the competitive advantage provided by their newness and government-enforced flexibility. Singapore could only achieve its current status as a regional business centre, sculpted in spectacularly cold neo-modern architecture, because of the growing interpenetration of the world economy, in which only a few points reach out to the entire planet. For capital flows and financial institutions in perpetual search for fiscal heavens and all flexible institutional environments, Singapore has become a privileged hub. (Castells, 1988:74)
Singapore's push to gain world city status is exemplified by its Operational Headquarters (OHQ) programme designed to attract regional head offices of multinationals (MNCs).20 The goal of this programme is expressed by the Economic Development Board:
Singapore aims to become an important strategic node of global companies for the Asia-Pacific region... we would like companies to do more than production. On the one hand, they should integrate backwards into activities such as production engineering, product design, research and development; on the other hand, they should integrate forwards into marketing, technical support, after sales services and ultimately regional management. (Economic Development Board, 1988:7; emphasis added)
This programme has been very successful. Companies setting up OHQs in Singapore include Reuters, Union Carbide, Matsushita, Hitachi, GE, Toshiba, Nixdorf, Nomura, and Data General. These firms control the activities of hundreds of plants in South-East Asia and tens of thousands of employees.
However, to succeed as a regional command centre in a global system of cities Singapore needs to enhance regional ties. The Growth Triangle is a reflection of this need as Singapore becomes the control centre for ASEAN activities. The globalization involved in the move to regional world city status is reflected in changes in the economy; it is also a critical facet of the development of the Growth Triangle as a whole - it lies at the base of the regional push, a new spatial niche for Singapore.
The growing impact of "world city" service activities has served to concentrate a good deal of the value-addition in the central business district (CBD). This concentration is apparent in the towering skyscrapers rising up from the older colonial landscape and in the gentrification of city centre areas such as Neil Road.
Paradoxically, as Singapore's economy has moved into a post-industrial "world city" mode, it has found it even more important to increase its level of interaction with a surrounding "shadow region." The flip side of the growing success of the financial, business, and information service sectors is a decline in other areas traditionally important to the economy. As the economy has moved "up-scale," certain activities are becoming increasingly marginalized within the city-state's space-economy. However, these activities are still important to the economy as a whole and so are being maintained - no longer in the city itself but in a new hinterland, the Singapore region.
The regionalization process
In this section we will examine the roots of regionalization and the development of the Growth Triangle in particular. The analysis is divided into three parts: (a) geopolitical and political sources of the Growth Triangle region; (b) comparative advantage and transnational regions; and (c) the economic efficacy of regional production complexes. We argue that the first two of these factors are peculiar to the international nature of the Singapore EMR but that they are none the less driven by the same logic that characterizes other EMRs. Finally we discuss why extended metropolitan regions are developing, why they are so competitive, and why Singapore has set about "creating" one of its own.
LOCAL GEOPOLITICAL FACTORS. Without the heavy involvement of the Singaporean state, the Growth Triangle would not be what it is today. For example, it is the Singapore government that got the Batam development off the ground with the investment of S$500 million in the Batam-Indo Industrial Park and the involvement of Singaporean state enterprises such as the Jurong Town Corporation (through its subsidiary Jurong Environmental Engineering) and Singapore Technologies. Sumitomo, the first major tenant in the industrial park, attributes its participation solely to the urging of the government of Singapore. Hidehiko Takeuchi, managing director of Sumitomo Electric Automotive Products, has said that, in regard to the decision to invest in Batam, "We rely on the Singapore Government" (Asian Wall Street Journal, 5 December 1990:10).
The Singapore government seems particularly adroit at gauging economic currents and moving its economy in tandem with these changes (e.g. the NIDL). It is instructive to examine some specific political and economic goals that have made the Growth Triangle seem like such an appealing policy option.
Security. Singapore's vulnerability is a key to understanding its psyche. It is the ideology of vulnerability that forged the nation and the sacrifices of its people. Singapore is a very small, largely Chinese, island in a Malay sea, and the threads of historical and current antagonisms wind throughout much of the regional tapestry. The Growth Triangle benefits Singapore in that it increases regional amity and interdependence. The Singapore government hopes that Singapore investment and technology transfer will improve its relations with neighbouring states and peoples. It will also allow it to give the impression of trying "to share the wealth" as it pushes towards "developed country" status.
Water. At present, Singapore depends on the state of Johore for virtually all of its water. This dependence has been highlighted on numerous occasions, especially when relations hit low ebbs. The dependence on Johore is in some sense mitigated by the Riau development agreement. As part of that agreement, wherein Singapore undertakes to assist in the development of the Riaus, Singapore is guaranteed water rights. Again, as part of assuring its access to water, Singapore has promised to ensure adequate supplies to Batam, where water shortages are the critical limiting factor to development.21
Building "ersatz" networks: Attracting Chinese capital. In the cases of international amity and water supplies the policies of the Singapore state are quite apparent. This cannot be said of the third source of state interest -building "ersatz"22 networks and establishing Singapore as a centre for Chinese capital. Chinese ethnicity and investment networks lie at the very core of the development of the Growth Triangle, yet are rarely discussed and are political dynamite. This is, we would argue, a central but necessarily hidden subtext. It is a subtext the Singapore government must support, yet not dare articulate. It is a key facet of both Singapore's global plans (i.e. as global hub of Chinese capital) and its regional influence. The clearest example of this development is the pervasive involvement of the Salim Group in the Riaus' development and increasingly in the Singapore economy. Salim chief Liem has purchased Singapore Land Corporation, in a move supported by the Singapore government (Far Eastern Economic Review, 10 June 1991:50). The "Chinese factor" is so touchy because of ethnic tensions, which Singapore itself experiences within its borders in the case of guest workers.
The guest worker issue. By 1991, there were 400,000 guest workers in Singapore and their presence was coming to be seen as a social liability. As the volume of guest workers increased (thus undercutting local wages) the government levied a tax and quota on guest workers. This policy severely increased costs for some Singapore manufacturers. This is one reason that the Growth Triangle becomes so appealing. It is now possible to move these "low-end" jobs offshore (and the worker too), but to maintain the service functions attached to those industries (such as management, finance, marketing, communications, transport) in Singapore. In fact, this is what has happened. Most firms surveyed to date have moved part of their production to Johore and Batam, but left command/control functions in Singapore. This point is critical: it lies at the base of the Growth Triangle and it serves to ameliorate tensions over guest workers within the city while moving toward Singapore's vision of its new internationalization.
Internationalization. One might well suggest that Singapore already has an extremely externally oriented economy. However, to date, this internationalization has been a case of the "outside" coming "in." New policies are designed to internationalize the Singapore economy - to move it outwards.23 The Growth Triangle provides a good base for taking Singaporean capital onto the international stage - a goal the Singapore government has captured in the phrase "Singapore International." The development of Singapore International is occurring along three lines: (1) government portfolio investment of burgeoning foreign reserves and capital from the privatization programme into already existing firms, usually in developed countries; (2) large-scale Singapore companies (both private and public) moving into the international market-place; and (3) small-scale Singapore firms that are moving into Johore (particularly) further expanding the geographical range of their activities.
Large Singapore firms, especially government-led companies (GLCs), are being encouraged to develop a more international range of activities. The aim of the government's internationalization approach is to encourage the growth of home-grown MNCs. The other NIEs have succeeded in this kind of development. The government has explicitly stated that Johore and Batam represent excellent opportunities for Singapore's GLCs and banks to internationalize their activities (Far Eastern Economic Review, 23 May 1991:55-62).
Support for the service economy. The source of the need for such regional internationalization is that it "locks in" at least part of the city-state's service base. Without indigenous MNCs or national offshore investments, the city's emergent service economy is completely dependent on the "flow" of transnational capital. For example, Hong Kong has underlying strengths because it is home to Standard Chartered and Hong Kong and Shanghai banks. Singapore needs to tie down such resident HQs if it is to build a broader, more secure global presence and attain the status of an upper-tier world city that it so aggressively covets. Thus, one can see how the shift of manufacturing activities into the Growth Triangle might actually be seen as a key facet in a much larger move to engage the international service economy.
Exports of government know-how. The support of the Growth Triangle draws benefits to Singapore in that it allows it to begin establishing an export base for its very effective service sector, especially the government-run service sector. For example, one of Singapore's most successful service industries is its telecommunications company, Telecoms (Telecommunications Singapore). Reared on a dense local market and the city's lineage as a global communications hub, Telecoms has become a superb utility. Within Singapore, it has kept the communications infrastructure at the leading edge (fibre optics, digital switching, etc.). It also maintains a very efficient and economical international exchange between the city and the rest of the world. The need now is for the utility to begin to export some of this expertise. The Growth Triangle has provided a nearby test case for the internationalization of Telecoms as it became involved in the telecommunications sector on Batam.
Singapore is striving to export its expertise in other areas as well. The Growth Triangle provides opportunities for companies such as industrial estate developers Jurong Town Corporation or Keppel to sell their expertise. From this base, wider markets may be found. For example, possibilities have already been mooted of Singapore building industrial townships in the PRC.
As Singapore pushes to upgrade its "stock of human capital," there are numerous economies to be gained from marketing its training facilities as well. Singapore seems well on its way to becoming the regional training centre for a wide range of occupations (including and especially those emerging within the Growth Triangle). The export of training skills helps to enhance Singapore's move into "knowledge industries," supports economies of scale, and helps to improve relations between Singapore and its neighbours. This last point is much more important than it might seem. Singapore is trading some of its skills in return for more security.
Disciplining labour. The development of the Growth Triangle is a very effective method of keeping a lid on production costs in Singapore itself. The constant visibility of the development and its proximity can only serve to impress on workers the extremely competitive world economy in which they toil. This may be true at the level of the state as well as at the level of individual companies, which can now opt to produce in any one of the three areas.
Summing-up the geopolitical drive. Thus, the Singapore state can see a number of benefits from the development of the Growth Triangle. These include:
diversifying water sources;
affirming Singapore as a centre for Chinese capital;
addressing the "guest worker issue";
assisting the internationalization of the economy;
assisting the move to a service economy;
establishing markets for Singapore's know-how;
disciplining Singapore's labour force.
These factors are all part of the government's larger drive to push the Growth Triangle idea. However, one should note that these rationales all exist as part of the desire to establish a hinterland, an EMR to support the city in its quest for growth. These functions could not be fully maintained if Singapore had held on to its role of a production platform. To make its Next Lap, it needs to be embedded in a regional economy. The Singapore state does not tend to articulate these reasons publicly as a package, but rather prefers to allude to the seemingly impeccable neo-classical reasoning of comparative advantage.
COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE. The Growth Triangle, in part a marketing scheme, is based on the idea of comparative advantage. The region as an integrated unit is thought to be attractive to investors because
Singapore can provide highly developed telecommunications links and management expertise. Batam and Johor can offer abundant land and cheap labour. Together, they can produce the kind of business environment no longer available in Asia's newly industrialized countries. (Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 June 1991:34).
This approach has been taken by companies such as Sumitomo and Thomson Consumer Products, which utilize all three parts of the triangle from headquarters in Singapore (Straits Times, 1 December 1989).
Each of the triangle's three nodes is seen to have specific comparative advantages. In each case the presence or absence of local resources is held to affect the area's role in the regional totality. This argument turns on the concept of factor endowments (land, labour, and capital). The most common delineation is as follows:
(1) Singapore - skilled labour, business services, control and com munications functions.
(2) Johore - skilled to semi-skilled labour, recreation, land.
(3) Batam and the Riaus - "low-cost, controlled" labour, some natural amenities (beaches).
Yet there is much more to the story than the roles outlined above. One needs to "unpack" each of the factors of production (land, labour, and capital) and each of the contexts it is found in. The central point is that the endowments of Johore and Batam must always be seen in comparison with Singapore. It is the escalation of costs in Singapore that has made these areas seem so attractive. For this reason, a consideration of land, labour, and capital resources in the region must begin with Singapore in each case.
Labour. A key part of the composition of the economic and social entity that is Singapore revolves around the productivity of its labour force. For example, Castells (1988:18) argues that "overall, productivity seems to have grown between three and four times faster than real wages, accounting for a high rate of profit." Workers in Singapore have for some time been ranked near the top, globally, in terms of productivity growth. This has long been a key to the nation's success. It is now apparent that it is increasingly difficult to maintain an upward wage-productivity spiral, at least in "low-end" manufacturing. Productivity growth in manufacturing grew by 3.9 per cent in 1989 while the economy as a whole averaged 4.6 per cent, and financial and business services saw a 7.0 per cent increase (Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, 1991:9). The economy is increasingly less competitive in low value-added, labour-intensive manufacturing and is finding its strengths in other activities.24 This has meant that a number of manufacturing activities have had to move off the island of Singapore to find other labour pools. Johore and Batam, it is argued, present a range of labour wages and skill levels. The wage rate for a semi-skilled machine operator in Singapore is approximately S$650 per month, in Batam it is S$150-200, and in Johore S$350 (Sato, 1991).
However, the story pierces far deeper than a comparison of wage rates might suggest. First, it is important to note that in both cases, but especially in the case of Batam, labour is not really a factor endowment. In the case of Johore, labour shortages are the most important drag on development. Batam's indigenous population is almost negligible. Labour is being brought into these areas, or brought into the orbit of the region, by investment, and much of this capital originates in Singapore. In this sense, the extension of the Singapore space-economy is creating new labour markets.
Secondly, one might argue that the point is not so much that inexpensive labour is present but that it is within the region. There are many places in the world with cheap labour, but very few so near to a global hub, Singapore. It is the regionalization of the economy that gives the labour forces of Johore and Batam their attractiveness.
Thirdly, the region as a whole is characterized by a good deal of labour mobility: Batam is all migrant labour, Singapore has 400,000 guest workers and expatriates, and Johore attracts some 30,000 people a year from other areas of Malaysia (not including the growing numbers of illegal migrants from Sumatra). Thus, labour as a factor endowment of any one of the three areas can be considered only in the light of the overarching regionalization process. The same may be said for land endowments. The key variable driving regional land valuation as a whole is the Singapore market, which is very buoyant.
Table 12.5 Increases in prices of industrial land, 1980-1990 (prime flatted factory)
|Year||Monthly rental (S$/ft2)||Sales price (S$/m2)|
Source: Ng Chee Yuen and Wang Poh Kam, "The Growth Triangle with Market Driven Response," Asian Club Paper 2, Tokyo: Asia Club, 1991.
Industrial land. Table 12.5 illustrates the increases in industrial land costs in Singapore. These costs are unlikely to come down because Singapore has developed about as much land as is likely to be socially acceptable at present. For example, the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (1991:39) has suggested that the "industrial, hotel and retail space market is about 90% occupied and this shortage is expected to last through the 1990s." This shortage is driving the development of industrial parks from Kota Tinggi (Johore) to Nongsa (Batam).
The Singapore retail land market is extremely active owing to increasing incomes and the massive numbers of tourists and expatriates. For example, "Rental rates in good retail space fronting Orchard Road are likely to set new records, exceeding S$60 per square foot per month" (Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, 1991:40). Orchard Road is now the fourth most expensive retail space in the world. This capital intensification is expressed in the purchase by Japan's Sogo department store of the Paragon building for nearly S$10,000 per ft2. These high costs are pushing many retailers out of Singapore and into Johore in particular. Singaporeans now own more than 70 per cent of the 440 shop lots at the Holiday Plaza shopping complex, which is popular with Singaporeans (Straits Times, 25 January 1991:22). In Johore Bahru, a booming market for retail space has been created where none existed before. This market is a result of the escalation of prices in Singapore and increasing numbers of Singaporeans coming to shop in Johore.
The residential land market in Singapore is very unusual. Singapore has one of the world's highest home-ownership rates and most of the housing stock has been built by the state. The private sector cannot compete in price terms and so tends to be more "up-market." Private housing is, in part, used by the very large expatriate corporate community and by members of Singapore's wealthier élite. These people's jobs are often in some way linked to Singapore's world city status, and salaries in the business/commerce sector are among the highest in the city, particularly in the financial services sector. These high wages have also served to push up effective demand for expensive luxury and private sector accommodation.
Thus, Singapore displays something of a dualistic land rent structure. This structure is characterized by affordable (indeed cheap) public units and expensive prestige private sector developments. This combination has left the middle class with available capital to invest in housing (owing to inexpensive state housing), but a lack of supply of "private" housing. It has also made the cost of private sector housing in Singapore beyond the reach of most.
For these reasons, cash-rich upper-middle-class Singaporeans jumped at the chance to own "private" housing in Johore and Batam. In Batam, only 30 minutes away from Singapore's CBD, land costs are about 30 per cent of those in Singapore's suburbs. Several massive housing developments on Batam were sold out within hours or days of being put to tender - the majority of sales being to Singaporeans. These developments tend to be for weekend homes or getaways. In 1990, 85 per cent of Singapore investment in Batam was in tourism and housing (BIDA, cited in Pangetsu, 1991) with an emphasis on golf course development.
Capital: The appreciation of the Singapore dollar. In terms of access to capital, Singapore is very clearly the leader in the triangle, all the more so as its global financial activities grow. Indeed, it is in part the surfeit of capital in Singapore that is driving the whole process of regionalization.
In the first instance, it is important to point out just how mobile capital is today. In many cases it seems foolish to talk of the capital resources of particular locations because, as long as an area is accessible (e.g. communication links), it has the virtually unlimited global capital pool to tap. There is a momentum to this process so that, once capital flows to a particular region, that region may well become swamped - as the Growth Triangle now is.
The second angle is related to the impact of the appreciation of the Singapore dollar. The increases in labour and land costs have been magnified by a very strong Singapore dollar. The success of Singapore's development has led to a marked appreciation in the value of the Singapore dollar in comparison with most currencies. For example, the Malaysian ringgit was worth S$0.844 in 1986 but is now worth only approximately S$0.642. In terms of the US dollar, the Singapore dollar appreciated from US$0.46 in 1986 to US$0.56 in 1991 (Singapore, Department of Statistics: 74).
The increasing value of the Singapore dollar has made goods exports more expensive and has made the possibilities of investing offshore that much more appealing.
Summing up factor endowments. We have tried to present the argument that the neo-classical fixation with factor endowments may be flawed when they are seen as stark attributes. Yet this does not mean that comparative advantage is irrelevant to the development of the Singapore EMR - it clearly is relevant.
The key point is that the region provides an effective mix of diversity and proximity. It is supported by the closeness of the three nations, but dependent on some differences (especially in terms of political economy) among component facets. These issues strike very close to home in the case of the Singapore EMR. The Growth Triangle is very much an example of a fortuitous melding of proximity and diversity. Indeed, it is something of a geographical oddity - the investor (or product) in Singapore can be in either Johore or Batam in under an hour (from the CBD) by surface transport. The location of Singapore is unique in Asia in its access to two different polities so near by.
THE ECONOMIC EFFICACY OF REGIONAL PRODUCTION COMPLEXES. Recent years have seen a burgeoning of empirical evidence and theoretical accounts of changes in the nature of contemporary capitalist enterprise. Empirically, one notes two distinct, but tightly bound trends both pertain to the Singapore region. First, there has been an explosive integration of global markets. This integration is not itself new, but the scale and pervasiveness are (as we have illustrated in the Singapore case). Paradoxically, the increasing integration and size of global markets have led to the second trend of increasing levels of instability and flux.
The age of monolithic, stable national capital as described in Galbraith's New Industrial State has given way to an era of "flexible accumulation" (see, for example, Harvey, 1989). Today, the firms, nations or regions that succeed are those with the flexibility to "Thrive on Chaos." As the Report of the Economic Commission (Singapore, 1985:14) puts it, "Without flexibility we will never ride out storms and dangers... this tendency to rigidity must be constantly controlled."
In particular the need for flexibility is most evident in two linked arenas. First, the fluidity and speed of capital circulation have led to new and evanescent forms of accumulation in general (e.g. forex trading, information as a commodity). These changes have come to affect Singapore's role as an entrepôt of capital and information (e.g. the tremendous increase in volume outlined above).
In the realm of production, new and important patterns of manufacturing are coming to the fore; these have been placed under the rubric of flexible production (Piore and Sabel, 1984). Developments linked to the emergence of flexible production include: an emphasis on economies of scope (variability, in a search for more value-addition and external economies) over those of scale (this is a key focus of the People's Action Party's policy document in Singapore, The Next Lap); an increase in subcontracting and vertical disintegration of production; the growth of new forms of business relations based on trust and personal relationships (as contractual relations may be too cumbersome or time consuming to fit a convulsive market-place);25 the growth of short-term, goal-oriented strategic alliances between corporations -often across national boundaries; a two-tiered economic structure, characterized by very large holding, financial, or trading companies that coordinate the production of a proliferation of small suppliers; an emphasis on the acceleration of the circulation of goods, capital, and information to maximize returns and limit the risks of inventory or inflexibility.26
The model of flexible accumulation is helpful in interpreting contemporary changes in economic activity. At present, however, our goal is less to argue for the acuity of the detailing of the paradigm, but rather to relate its useful and instructive insights into the reemergence of regional production complexes. As Sabel (1989) has argued, flexible production systems and the re-emergence of regional economies are very closely linked.
Flexible production systems require spatial proximity (i.e. a regionalization) for several reasons. These include: to facilitate just-in-time inventory (JIT) between vertically disintegrated production units; to develop a production "culture" (to produce innovations from the shop-floor to management); and to provide a wide base of support (i.e. many suppliers and workers) to allow for fluctuations in market demand. These traits are frequently pointed to as strengths of the Growth Triangle.
FLEXIBLE PRODUCTION AND RURAL AREAS. Taking this argument a step further, a push of production and distribution complexes into adjacent "rural" areas, such as is found in the EMRs, is particularly suitable to this model because the move to these rural locations may allow for an escape from the conformity (e.g. tight regulation/supervision) and constrictions (e.g. traffic jams/labour militancy) of urban places - in this case, to escape the regulations of Singapore. Rural areas are also conducive to establishing new production complexes because of the characteristics of labour. These traits include: low cost; inexperienced in manufacturing and thus less prone to militancy; and more easily retrenched in the event of a slow-down (e.g. back to the farm).
However, as Storper and Walker (1989) have pointed out, cheap flexible labour in and of itself is not enough to guarantee investment - cheap labour on a global scale is plentiful. Rather, the location and accessibility of the labour must also be considered. The rural hinterlands of the major Asian cities are accessible because there is so much investment occurring in Asian economies in general and there are numerous well-developed regional hubs (such as Singapore) to coordinate investment into the hinterland. This is key to the development of the Singapore EMR: it combines a mixture of flexible production potentialities and a coordinating, advanced hub.
Rural hinterlands also provide the population densities suitable for establishing a diversified regional economy. Population densities allow for high levels of transactional density - a prerequisite for a flexible region. The high transactional densities required within the region of flexible production, not uncoincidentally, mirror those that characterize EMRs. In the Singapore case, the proliferation of speedboats linking the Riaus to Singapore or the ubiquitous transport trucks moving between Johore and Singapore illustrate something of this dynamism.
THE GLOBAL/REGIONAL NEXUS AND NEW "SPACES" OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY The growth of selected EMRs is a result of the increasing efficacy of regional production. Yet these areas are still themselves part of a larger production grid and therefore need to be closely linked to the global assembly line. In other words, regional production systems will be more effective if they are anchored on a world city to provide communications and transportation functions. Singapore provides this function in a superb fashion. It is a centre that is well hooked up to global communications systems and increasingly deeply embedded in a dense local network of activity and movement. This has led to its dual characteristics of concentrating some activities (such as finance) and decentralizing others.
Antonelli (1988) argues that this divergence may be, in part, a result of the impact that communications and information-processing systems have on what he defines as "coordination" and "transaction" costs. Both, he argues, are lowered. The former assists in the development of centralized control capabilities, the latter in regional diffusion and market integration. He further argues that the impacts of these technologies are very differentially felt depending on the scale and nature of the enterprise, namely, large firms (for which "coordination" costs may be paramount), federations and non-equity contract groupings (typical of flexible regions), and small firms (for which transaction costs are paramount).
In terms of the present discussion, one can envision two waves of change in the way information technologies have affected the spatial context of economic activity. In the first phase (beginning in, say, 1880), technological breakthroughs (such as telegrams and steamships) were targeted at increasing "control" and the ability to organize far-flung activities. This form of change tended to favour certain colonial coordination hubs, such as Singapore, and larger firms. More recently, technological advances have enhanced "transactional densities" at a local level (such as Singapore's tremendous use of automated teller machines, point of purchase debiting, the new computerized "Tradenet," and even cellular phones). These technologies have deeply affected the spatial fabric of economic activity in that they have unleashed a "thickening" of activities by smaller firms.
Within the discipline of economic geography these kinds of changes are considered in light of how they reflect time-space relations.
"Time-space" is a concept that includes not only the distance from "A" to "B" but also the time taken to get from "A" to "B." The late 1800s witnessed what has been called a "time-space collapse," when the time taken to get from A to B was severely shortened (again, by steamships, telegrams, etc.). This trend led to the growth of colonial empires and the development of cities such as Singapore to act as collection points within the system of colonial places. Time-space collapse is deeply implicated in the bringing of once distant areas into the global economy (e.g. Johore's move into rubber).
Today, we would suggest, we are witnessing a new type of time-space change or shift in the fabric of economic activity. We will call this a time-space "swarm" or "implosion." In this instance, one sees that not only is the time taken to get from one point to another shrinking (especially for capital and ideas) but there is also a greatly enhanced fluidity of motion. Advances such as the development of cheap pick-up trucks and widespread telephony are increasing the density of interaction in any number of directions within traditionally rural areas, leading to what we have termed a space-economy transition in which "rural" areas can evince the dynamism once thought the realm only of cities. It is this change that allows the regionalization process to occur.
Summing-up: Singapore- World city and region
In concluding this section, two points may be drawn out of the discussion. The first is that, as our discussion has illustrated, the Growth Triangle region is tremendously dependent on Singapore. Changes within Singapore are transforming the livelihoods of people who until only recently were little affected by events in the city. The region needs, and is a product of, the city as a key contact with the world economy. Changes in this world economy, funnelled through Singapore (directly, or via the city's restructuring), are leading to a spatial upheaval in the once rural landscapes of Johore and Batam.
However, Singapore also needs the Growth Triangle region to support its ascension to world city status. The support the region gives to Singapore's service sector and the escape valves it provides for the society and economy are critical to Singapore's continued success. Thus, the case of the Singapore EMR brings very clearly to the fore a key issue facing development and spatial analysis today: the globalization/regionalization nexus.
These two seemingly opposing tendencies are indeed tightly bound, as the Singapore case shows. They portend future developments in the evolution of global capitalism and how it impinges on local milieux. Yet if the globalization process seems ineluctable and the regionalization process is closely bound to it, what does this mean for the future in terms of development priorities and life chances for the people in this and other emerging regions? The long-term viability of this type of development is in question, a point we shall address below in the conclusion. The first question one needs to ask is, are these regions sustainable?
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